December 20, 2016
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #1049, Chanuka, Ha’yom Yom & Moshiach, VaYeishev

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

This Shabbos (VaYeishev) is the Shabbos that leads into the yom tov of Chanuka. Chanuka is the yom tov where we publicize our immense thanks to Hashem for all the miracles that Hashem has done – and continues to do – “בימים ההם בזמן הזה, in those days and in our days.” On the most basic level, we celebrate the great miracle of the Maccabees victory over the mighty Greek army and the finding of the oil which then lasted for eight days and nights.

Everything in Torah and Yiddishkait is eternal and has eternal lessons for us in our Avodas Hashem. In the HaYom Yom the Rebbe crystallizes for us what did, and do, the Greeks represent and how we are victorious over them.

“The sins of Israel in the time of the Greeks were: Fraternizing with the Greeks, studying their culture, profaning Shabbat and Holy Days, eating treif and neglecting Jewish tahara. The punishment-tribulation was the spiritual destruction of the Sanctuary, death, and slavery in exile. Through t’shuva and mesiras nefesh, that great, miraculous Divine salvation, the miracle of Chanuka, came about.” (HaYom Yom 29 Kislev)

“The campaign of the Greeks was aimed to ‘make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will’ (Siddur p. 59); as the Midrash (B’Reishis Rabba 16) puts it, (the Greeks demanded) ‘Write … that you have no share in the G‑d of Israel.’ It was a war against G‑d. ‘Let them study Torah,’ the Greeks implied. ‘Let them practice the justice-mitzvos and the “testimonial” observances. But they must not mention that the Torah is G‑d’s Torah and the mitzvos are the decrees of His will. Torah and mitzvos must be severed from G‑dliness.’” (HaYom Yom 2 Teves)

Many wonder and ask: Everything and everyone gets their life and sustenance from Torah and G-dliness. This includes the קליפה and evil forces as well. If so, where in Torah did the קליפה of the Greeks get their life-source from?

In the Sicha of Mikeitz, Shabbos Chanukah 5752, the Rebbe explains at length the history of translation of the Torah in general to other languages and to Greek in particular. In the teachings of our Chachomim, we find some fascinating sayings about this:

1. On the Pasuk (D’varim 27:8) “You shall write upon the stones all the words of this Torah very clearly,” Rashi (quoting the Gemara in Sota 32a) writes: “in seventy languages.”

2) “T’fillin and mezuzos may be written only in Assyrian script. Permission was granted to write Torah scrolls in Greek as well. That Greek language has, however, been forgotten from the world. It has been confused and has sunk into oblivion. Therefore, at present, all three sacred articles may be written using Assyrian script alone.” (Rambam Hilchos T’fillin, 1:19, based on Gemara Megilla 8b).

3) “R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel says that books [of the scripture] also are permitted to be written only in Greek. Rav Abbahu said in the name of Reb Yochanan: The Halacha follows R. Shimon ben Gamliel. Reb Yochanan further said: What is the reason of Reb Shimon b. Gamliel? Scripture says, God enlarge Yefes, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; [this means] that the words of Yefes shall be in the tents of Shem. But why not say [the words of] Gomer and Magog? — Reb Chiya ben Abba replied: The real reason is because it is written, Let God enlarge [yaft] Yefes: implying, let the chief beauty [yafyus] of Yefes be in the tents of Shem.” (Megilla 9b)

4) The Gemara (ibid 9a) discusses the great miracles that Hashem performed during the translation of the Torah to Greek: “Reb Yehudah said: When our teachers permitted Greek, they permitted it only for a scroll of the Torah. This was on account of the incident related in connection with King Ptolemy, as it has been taught: It is related of King Ptolemy that he brought together seventy-two elders and placed them in seventy-two [separate] rooms, without telling them why he had brought them together, and he went into each one of them and said to him, ‘Translate for me the Torah of Moshe your master.’ G-d then prompted each one of them and they all conceived the same idea…”

From the above it would appear that translating the Torah in general and specifically translating the Torah into Greek was a good thing. If so, how can we reconcile that with what is written in Meseches Sofrim (Chapter 1, Halacha 7): There were once five wise Jews who translated the Torah into Greek for King Talmai, that day was as difficult for the people of Israel as the day the Golden Calf was made…?

A close analysis of the text suggests the following answer: the wording is not that translating the Torah to Greek was as bad as the day that the Jews served the calf, rather the day that it was made.

The explanation: Just as having carved fixtures in itself is not bad (as the kruvim were in the Kodesh HaKadoshim), it is only when it is used as an idol is when it is bad, the same is true about translating the Torah. It is a very special thing when it is done by Moshe Rabbeinu, as then it will be used to elevate the world. But when it was translated to Greek at the behest of King Talmai, then it was a tragedy, because it eventually led to the fact that the Greeks were able to fight with the Jewish people and Torah values. Their ability came, not from their own strength, but rather from the fact that the Torah was translated into Greek, thus giving them extra divine strength and spiritual power.

It was the Mesiras Nefesh of the Maccabees that gave us the special miracles and yom tov of Chanuka. It is a yom tov where we publicly recognize the miracles that Hashem does for us. This recognition is integral to bringing the Geula.

In the words of the Rebbe (VaYeishev 5752): “Further, and this is essential: Recognition, acknowledgment and praising G-d for the miracles He performs, in addition to the concept of expressing gratitude, is relevant to the coming of our righteous Moshiach in the true and complete Redemption. For as the Gemara states: G-d desired to make Chizkiyahu Moshiach… the attribute of Divine Justice said to G-d… ‘Chizkiyahu for whom you did all these miracles (who was saved from Sancheriv and healed of his illness and didn’t sing praises to You, You want to make him Moshiach?’

“Obviously, in our context, publicizing the miracles which G-d has done in our times is relevant to bringing the true and complete Redemption in actual reality! From this we can derive an essential lesson: Since we are already after all the requirements and the Redemption still has not yet come – it is most appropriate to be involved with ‘publicizing the miracle,’ to publicize to one’s self and to others, and indeed everywhere, the miracles which G-d does for us, knowing this is connected with the true and complete Redemption!”

Chanuka is a very busy yom tov, with Menorah lightings, family gathering and mivtzaim. It is very important that we keep focused on the intrinsic connection that Chanuka has to the Geula. In the words of the Rebbe (Mikeitz 5751):

Applying this to a timely theme: As we stand in the days of Chanukah, though a multifaceted Holiday, we ought to emphasize primarily its connection with Redemption.

This festival was instituted because of the miracle with the cruse of oil involved with the kindling of the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash. Afterwards, the Hasmoneans dedicated the Temple (“They cleared Your Sanctuary and purified Your Holy Temple”). Mention of the Temple is an immediate reminder of the Redemption, and serves to enhance our anticipation for his coming every day, the building and dedication of the third Beis HaMikdash and the lighting of the Menorah by Aaron the High Priest, which will occur with the true and complete Redemption by our righteous Moshiach.

…And afterwards, when one reads or hears the Haftora which states, “I beheld the Menorah, entirely of gold,” one senses immediately a reference to the future Redemption!

Likewise, upon reading about the N’siim [princes] and the Nasi [prince] of the tribe of Reuven [Yaakov’s firstborn son] in particular, a Jew is reminded forthwith of the true and complete Redemption, at which time all the N’siim will be present, and the status of the Jewish People as the “firstborn child” of the whole world will be manifest.


Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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